PyeongChang, South Korea was recently awarded the Winter Olympics in a landslide vote from the International Olympic Committee. As has happened in the past for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, the suggestion has been made from both sides (that is, the left-wing opposition in the South and the desperate for foreign currency North) that some events and teams be shared jointly to represent a Korean peninsula “striving” for peaceful reunification. The Lee Myung-Bak South Korean government is playing it off with no serious consideration. From The Korea Times:
South and North Korea must resolve pending safety issues before discussing the potential of co-hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in PyeongChang, a government official said Wednesday.
Seoul has said it is open to related discussions but not actively looking into the matter. Any such move would need the approval of the International Olympic Committee, which observers say is highly unlikely.
"It’s possible as an idea,"Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters. "But for co-hosting to be possible, security issues of people going to North Korea needs to be solved. We’re not considering or examining anything seriously at the moment."
She stressed, however, the importance of talks over a stalled joint tourism project in Mt. Geumgang in the North, which discontinued after the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean visitor.
The remarks followed a statement by Jang Ung, a North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee, who told reporters in Tokyo that the North hopes to share events with PyeongChang. The host city is located in Gangwon Provice, which straddles both South and North Korea.
It was the first reaction from a North Korean official after PyeongChang beat out Munich of Germany and Annecy of France last week to win the rights to host the 2018 Winter Games.
The successful bid set off a flurry of activity among lawmakers, with ruling and opposition parties agreeing to make efforts to field a unified Korean team and jointly train athletes. Rep. Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, said Monday he would explore ways to co-host the event.
Bahng Tae-seop, a North Korea watcher at the Samsung Economic Research Institute, said the stepped up security at that time would force the North to make an important decision regarding the Games.
"The South Korean military, as well as the U.S. military, will need to prepare against threats such as terrorism given the international scope of the event,"he said.
"That will be seen as a threat against the regime. It will be a matter of rational choice — accepting any chance to co-host, remain silent or, in the worst case, resort to more bad behavior."
Joshua Stanton, of One Free Korea, has a cynical analysis held by most Pyongyang observers (not excluding myself). He believes the South Korean posturing is simply to please the left-wing opposition party, who strive for peace and unity with their Northern kinsmen. The North apparently support this idea as well, however in the 1988 Olympics their excessive demands for co-hosting events and opening ceremonies met in a complete breakdown in negotiations resulting in a boycott by several other socialist countries. And according to a Gallup poll, nearly 3/4s of South Koreans agree that the DPRK should certainly not be involved.